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Appellate court upholds life sentence

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Duane Turner will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering a Ball State student in 1994. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected his claims that his sentence was unconstitutional and that his attorney was ineffective.

Turner and Larry Newton went to the BSU campus with the intent of robbing someone. They picked up Chris Coyle and offered him a ride home. They demanded money from him, forced him out of the car, and then Newton shot Coyle once in the back of the head. Turner then shot Coyle in the shoulder. He died from the first shot.

Turner was convicted of felony murder and other charges, but only the murder conviction and a conviction of Class A felony attempted robbery resulting in serious bodily injury are at issue on this appeal. The jury was unable to recommend life imprisonment without parole, so the trial court held a sentencing hearing. The judge sentenced Turner to life without parole.

Turner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, challenging his sentence as unconstitutional based on Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), and alleging that he received ineffective trial and appellate assistance. The same lawyer represented him at both stages.

The post-conviction court denied relief; the Court of Appeals affirmed. It relied on Holmes v. State, 820 N.E.2d 136 (Ind. 2005), in which the Indiana Supreme Court held the verdict returned during the guilt phase sufficed to establish that “the jury found, beyond a reasonable doubt, aggravating circumstances” rendering Holmes eligible for the death penalty. Apprendi’s requirement that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt” was met by the nature of Holmes’ convictions, the high court held.

Here, the jury unanimously found Turner guilty of murder and attempted robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. The jury necessarily found the existence of one statutory aggravating circumstance alleged by the state, that Turner intentionally killed Coyle while committing or attempting to commit robbery, Judge Patricia Riley wrote in Duane Turner v. State of Indiana, 18A05-1112-PC-697.

The appellate judges found Turner’s attorney did not provide ineffective assistance at the trial level or appellate level, except for one issue on appeal. They found his attorney ineffective by not appealing his attempted robbery conviction on double jeopardy grounds. The judges remanded with instructions to reduce the conviction to a Class B felony.

 

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